*Note to reporters: A preview media tour of the Longhouse can be arranged on Wednesday during the Salmon Bake.
CORVALLIS, Ore. – The grand opening of the new Native American Longhouse at Oregon State University will take place Friday, May 17, at 4 p.m.
The new building, called Eena Haws, or ‘Beaver House’ in Chinook, is just south of the former longhouse, which is located at the corner of Jefferson Way and 26th Street in the heart of campus.
The new Longhouse, designed by Seattle architectural firm Jones & Jones, replaces a World War II-era Quonset hut.
The new structure reflects the shape and style of a traditional Oregon Coast longhouse while respecting the multiple tribal cultures represented at OSU. It was designed and developed in collaboration with Native students at OSU, who provided input and had decision-making roles throughout the entire process.
The Longhouse is the first of four new cultural centers Jones & Jones has designed for OSU. The centers are being funded with gifts from donors to The Campaign for OSU and university resources. The new 3,700-square-foot center includes a gathering hall, multi-purpose spaces for studying, relaxing and counseling, a kitchen, computer labs, an administrative office and a special sacred space.
For Mariah Huhndorf, an Alaska native of Athabaskan and Yupik descent, working at the Longhouse was a family tradition. Her older brother and sister worked at the center, and when she came to campus she was quickly welcomed into the community. The Longhouse was where she met her best friend, and where she had a chance to develop leadership skills and take on new responsibilities. It’s also where she learned to appreciate the ways in which her Native background made her unique.
“People were interested in my culture and it made me more proud to be able to share it with others,” she said.
Victoria Nguyen, director of Diversity Development at OSU, said the building of new cultural centers on campus demonstrates the dedication the campus has to supporting students of color.
“Diversity is a core initiative for OSU,” Nguyen said, “and in a time of budget constraints where some diversity programs (on other campuses) are being eliminated, we’re stating that we’re investing in diversity, and telling our community how important that is.”
The Longhouse has been decorated with donated artwork from Pacific Northwest Native artists, including the centerpiece, a one-of-a-kind, 360-degree totem created by master carver Clarence Mills of Vancouver, B.C., and two assistant carvers. Mills is a member of the Haida Nation, an indigenous people located in Canada and Alaska. The work was commissioned by Oregon State University alumni Luana (’72) and Jim Whyte (’70, MS ’72), who reside in Vancouver, B.C., and have a long-standing admiration for Native American artwork. (For a full story on the totem: http://oregonstate.edu/dept/ncs/lifeatosu/2012/800-year-old-fallen-cedar-tree-transformed-into-totem-pole-for-osu-longhouse/)
Daniel Cardenas, a graduate teaching assistant working with the Longhouse staff, said the new facility provides a home away from home for students, and a sense of community that helps them as students and individuals.
“For some Native students, the deck is stacked against them,” Cardenas said. “Here at the Longhouse we’re able to cover many forms of wellness (spiritual, social, etc). That has a long-term benefit to OSU in terms of student retention.”
“We have students provide testimony that says if not for the cultural centers I would not have had as full or rich an experience,” Nguyen said. “Students are choosing OSU because of our cultural centers and because they can find a place where they can make a connection with other students who share their culture.”
In addition to the opening ceremony, there will be several other events taking place that week on campus. On Wednesday, May 15, the 15th annual Salmon Bake will be held in the MU Quad from noon to 3 p.m. And during the weekend, May 18-19, the annual OSU Klatow Eena (Go Beavers) Powwow takes place in McAlexander Fieldhouse.
Editor’s note: For photos, see: http://www.flickr.com/photos/oregonstateuniversity/sets/72157633443594647/